ROME (AFP) — President Giorgio Napolitano said Saturday a consensus had not yet emerged on the way forward for Italy after more talks with political leaders following the collapse of Romano Prodi's government.
His meetings included representatives of several members of prime minister Prodi's centre-left coalition, as well as of the small party whose defection brought down his 20-month administration.
"For the moment it is impossible to summarise anything," Napolitano told reporters after the talks with leaders of the minor groupings. He will be meeting the larger parties on Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile the left-wing daily La Repubblica reported that Napolitano would try to persuade conservative opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi to suspend his clamour for new elections until electoral reform could be pushed through parliament.
Napolitano is determined to resist pressure to send voters back to the ballot box before Italy's widely criticised electoral law is overhauled under a caretaker government.
The president is due to see the 71-year-old former prime minister -- who pushed through the current law shortly before the April 2006 elections which gave a narrow victory to the Prodi camp -- on Tuesday.
The flamboyant Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, wants to take advantage of the left's plunging popularity: three recent voter surveys show the Italian right with double-digit leads over the left.
Berlusconi is backed by his right-wing ally Gianfranco Fini and Clemente Mastella, a former justice minister, who pulled his Catholic centrist UDEUR party out of Prodi's coalition earlier this month after being named in a corruption probe.
"We are against a technical government... and in favour of early elections," Mastella said after his talks with Napolitano.
Communist leader Oliviero Diliberto also called for elections, while environment minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said he wanted Prodi to be asked to form a new government to continue improvements in the Italian economy.
Apart from Napolitano, a former communist, left-wingers such as Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni, and the head of the employers' federation Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo, want a caretaker administration, saying elections under the present law would be the worst possible course.
The current system's main flaw is that it results in fragmented parliaments with unstable coalitions in government. It was pushed through parliament by the outgoing Berlusconi government with the goal of limiting the extent of an expected win by the left.
Prodi, too busy struggling to keep his squabbling coalition together, was unable to address many pocketbook issues over his 20 months in office even while returning Italy to economic growth after years in the red under Berlusconi.
For Veltroni, who heads a newly-formed centre-left grouping, the Democratic Party, elections would come too soon, before he has managed to bring under proper control the ex-communists and reformist Catholics who came together in the new party only a few months ago.
Commentators also said Prodi, 68, who has a different view of left-wing politics than Veltroni, should not be counted out in the future, though he has said he wants to bow out.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Prodi on Saturday thanking him for the work he did during his tenure as premier "for peace in the world, evoking the role of Italy in Lebanon and in the moratorium on the death penalty" adopted by the UN General Assembly in December, a press representative for the Italian premier's office told AFP.
The Corriere della Sera paper said Saturday that if unable to convince enough parties that a caretaker government is needed, Napolitano could name a prominent figure to conduct further negotiations and exhaust every possible solution.
This could be Franco Marini, 74, the current president of the Senate, who has also been tipped to head a transitional government, the paper said.
The Vatican's secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone, when questioned by journalists on Saturday said he hoped that Italy's political factions "would reach an accord for the common good," the ANSA news agency reported.
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